Prostate cancer survivor urges families to make sure men get tested

21 November 2018
4 minute read


Mervyn Griffiths (64) is married with two adult sons. He works in the computer industry, selling hardware and software. He has a comfortable life and enjoys the close relationship he has with his supportive family. Their care has been instrumental in getting Mervyn through the last four years, in which he received not one but two life-changing diagnoses.

The first diagnosisIn 2014, after he started having seizures, he visited a doctor and had his suspicions confirmed. He had developed epilepsy. While his medical team were adjusting his medication – a process that took 18 months – he was unable to drive, which made it difficult for him to work.

“It was an awful thing to go through for a year and a half,” Mervyn says.

The support of his loving family – wife Audrey and two sons, Ross and Craig – made all the difference in getting him through this rough time.

The second diagnosisRoss had been active in raising awareness for Movember for a while, and after Mervyn’s epilepsy diagnosis, Ross began to put pressure on him to get tested for prostate cancer. Two other family members had had prostate cancer diagnoses, which had been a wake-up call for them all.

Mervyn eventually went to have prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, and the results were a little high, so the doctor recommended he come in for a follow-up digital rectal exam, in the doctor inserts a finger through the anus to check for swelling of the prostate gland.

“But men don’t like the finger thing, so I kept postponing. Ross kept saying that I had to go, and all of them, Audrey, Craig and Ross, put the pressure on me,” Mervyn recalls.

Finally, he went for the examination, and for the second time in two years, a doctor had bad news for Mervyn. “He felt a lump, and that I should see a urologist. The urologist conducted a finger exam – another one – and then did a biopsy and confirmed that I had prostate cancer. Obviously, it’s not the news I wanted to hear, but I wasn’t afraid. I knew I had my family around me.”

A treatment planThe urologist then discussed treatment options with Mervyn and his family.

“He said we could leave it alone, and in ten years’ time, I’d be dead. The next option was watchful waiting, which means waiting to see if it does grow, and if not, keep on watching. The third option was total removal of the prostate. And the final option was brachytherapy.”

Brachytherapy involves the insertion of small radioactive “seeds” into the prostate, which prevent the cancer from growing any further. The doctor warned Mervyn that if he opted for this route, there’s a small risk of damaging surrounding tissue (far less risk than from a total removal), and that as a precaution he could avoid pregnant women or children under four until the initial strength of the radiation subsided – usually a couple of months.

“The doctor said to me that ultimately the decision was mine and my family’s, as it was my life that would be affected. But he recommended brachytherapy, and in the end, that’s what I opted for.”

While brachytherapy is not a particularly invasive procedure (Mervyn says his epilepsy treatment was far worse), it does have some side-effects. Mervyn bled and experienced leakage and bleeding for months after the procedure, and he still leaks a little when he is active. “When I know I am going to be active, I wear some sort of protection, like a ladies’ panty liner, and that does the trick.”

Mervyn’s messageMervyn says he will always be grateful to his family for pushing him to have the prostate examination, because if they hadn’t, he might not have been around for much longer. With their support, Mervyn experienced very little emotional trauma throughout his diagnosis and treatment.

“I know that a lot of people get scared and think that they are going to die. But I never felt that once. My family felt it for me.”

For other men, he says, “Go for a PSA finger-prick test and go for the finger test after you’ve turned 40. Don’t be silly about it like I was. I was lucky that the cancer hadn’t spread yet. You may not be so lucky.”

He also has a message for women: “Just like I need to understand about breast cancer so that I can look after the women in my life, you need to know about prostate cancer so that you can support the men. A supportive partner – and children – make all the difference, so educate yourselves as a family and encourage each other to get the tests you need.”

Today, Mervyn is a happy, healthy man with a long future ahead of him. He enjoys chasing after his two-year-old granddaughter Julia and doing the park run every week.

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